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Contact — 9 Comments

  1. I will soon be 50 years old. After practicing law for 25 years I am looking for a career change. The foreign service has always been appealing and I registered for the exam.
    Will my age be an obstruction to joining the foreign service? Money and promotion are not important at this stage of my life. Thank you.

  2. Your age is not an obstacle. You can take the exam up to age 59, and you can enter the Service up to age 60. Retirement is mandatory at age 65.
    Good luck!

  3. I’m about to retire from the Marine Corps. I’m well aware of some of the cultural differences that have prevented the DoD and DoS from working well together in the past. What advice can you offer for those transitioning from the military? Are there any typical problems encountered by prior military members?

  4. The number of retired or former military joining the Foreign Service has been rising in recent years among both officers and specialists, so you won’t find yourself alone.

    Prior military may find a few surprises in the Foreign Service, but surprises are not problems. Former military excel in the Foreign Service, more often than not.

    The main surprise is that Foreign Service members, particularly officers, treat the hierarchy of rank quite casually. Junior officers are not afraid to engage senior officers in discussion, and even debate, and if they are rarely encouraged in this behavior, neither are they punished for it. The willingness to ignore rank is strongest overseas, where small staffs, heavy workloads, and in some cases a sense of crisis lead to informality and a spirit of improvisation.

    A second surprise is how top-heavy the Service is. On paper, Class 1 is equivalent to colonel, and Counselor and above are flag ranks. As a practical matter, captains and majors are likely to have more responsibility than most O-1s and many Counselor and Minister Counselors. Perhaps that is why junior officers are so willing to confront their superiors.

    In the Department of State in Washington, as in the Pentagon, the spirit of improvisation is often stifled by bureaucracy. I had a boss in the Service who defined a bureaucrat as someone whose first thought in the morning is “Can I be blamed?” People with that attitude rarely succeed in the Marine Corps, but they may have long if not brilliant careers in the Foreign Service. If you are working for someone with a bureaucratic mind-set, you may run into a lot of frustration.

    Good luck, and stay in touch.

    Harry Kopp

  5. Hi . I would like to take up a career as a foreign service officer. I have 13 years of experience in training ( part of ITES industry handling international clients like dell/ intuit) . Could you help me with the process / website I need to follow to apply .

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